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Film / Friday Night Lights

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Brian Chavez: We got to lighten up. We're seventeen.
Don Billingsley: Do you feel seventeen?
Mike Winchell: I sure don't feel seventeen.

Friday Night Lights is a 2004 film based on the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, a Dream by H. G. Bissinger. The film was a critical and financial success, and a television series of the same name followed in 2006. The film is directed by Peter Berg and stars Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Britton, and Tim McGraw. The football players are portrayed by Lucas Black, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lee Thompson Young, and Garrett Hedlund.

The film is set in Odessa, Texas, and chronicles the 1988 season of the Permian High School Panthers. The film deals with the team's importance to the town and the underlying social and economic issues faced by the players, townspeople, and coaches on a daily basis. The film won an 2005 ESPY award for Best Sports Movie, and Entertainment Weekly placed the film at #37 on its 2006 list of the Best 50 High School Movies.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Donnie's father, a washed up ex-star, violently assaults his son on at least two occasions and resents him for not being as good a player as he once was.
  • Academic Athlete: Though he may not have the best football instinct, Chavez is the smartest player on the team and ends up going to Harvard.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Downplayed; the film kept the original book's title, but omitted the subtitle A Town, a Team, a Dream.
  • Adapted Out: Odessa High School, the city's other big public school, isn't mentioned at all in the film, even though the original book devoted a chapter to the rivalry between it and Permian, and the two schools play one another every year, since they've been in the same University Interscholastic Leaguenote  district since Permian opened in 1959.
  • The Alcoholic: Charles Billingsley. Charles won a state championship with Permian, but his life went nowhere after his high school glory days. He drinks to forget that his life peaked at 17 and takes out his frustrations on his son Don.
  • Alliterative Name: Coach Gary Gaines.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The 1998-2018 logo for Bank of America is seen below the scoreboard, when the film is set in 1988. (The logo would have looked like this.)
    • In 1988, Permian's home of Ratliff Stadium was on the outskirts of town in a fairly unpopulated area, with few houses nearby, making it unlikely that the film's depiction of children playing touch football near the stadium actually happened at that time. The area surrounding the stadium has since dramatically grown, meaning that the houses seen near the stadium in the film didn't exist in 1988.
    • Ratliff Stadium has had artificial turf since its 1982 opening, but still had its original Astroturf field, instead of the FieldTurf surface it had at the time of filming (it's since changed to another modern artificial surface, Matrix Turf).
    • A few scenes show players wearing facemask shields and Under Armour apparel. In 1988, visors for football helmets had yet to be created, and UA wasn't founded until 1996. Incidentally, UA founder Kevin Plank was playing high school football in the Washington, DC area in 1988.
  • Artistic License – History: More than enough for its own page. See also Anachronism Stew.
    • Players
      • Boobie Miles was depicted as one of the team's three captains. The real 1988 Permian team had three captains, but Miles wasn't one.
      • Several players had numbers and positions changed from the real 1988 team.
      • Don Billingsley's father Charlie was depicted as having been on a state championship Permian team in the film. The real Charlie was never on a state title team; Permian's best finish during his career was a loss in the 1968 state final.
    • Regular season
      • The Panthers were shown practicing in full pads with full contact on the first day of practice. In real life, Texas public high schools cannot do so until the fourth day of practice.
      • A Permian booster was shown toasting Coach Gaines' second season as Permian's head coach. The real 1988 season was his third.
      • Boobie Miles' first leg injury actually took place during a preseason scrimmage at Texas Tech's stadium in Lubbock, instead of a home regular-season game.
      • The film shows top-ranked Permian defeating an outclassed Marshall Mavericks team on a Friday night in Odessa. Permian did play Marshall in 1988, but the real Marshall team (whose colors are red and white, instead of purple and gold in the film) entered that game ranked third in the state, and defeated the fourth-ranked Panthers 13–12 on a very hot Saturday afternoon in Marshall.
      • District play began in week 2 in the film, but started in week 4 of the real 1988 season.
      • In the film, Permian defeated "North Shore Galena" in a mid-season (presumably district) game. There's no school called "North Shore Galena", but there is a North Shore High School in the Galena Park Independent School District... more than 500 miles from Odessa in suburban Houston. As of the 2021 season, those two schools have never played.
      • In the film, Permian was tied for the district title with Abilene Cooper and Midland Lee, with each team having two district losses. The real Permian team was tied with Midland Lee and Midland High, and all were 5–1 in district play.
      • Mike Winchell is shown with Coach Gaines at the coin toss in the film. In reality, no players from any of the teams involved were allowed at the coin toss; the real Gaines was accompanied by assistant Mike Belew.
      • In the film, Lee easily defeated Permian, with the Panthers never having a chance. In real life, Lee had to come from behind to win 22–21.
    • Playoffs
      • Permian's first playoff opponent in the film was Dallas Jesuit. In 1988, all private schools in Texas played in separate leagues from public schools; while private and public schools could (and did) schedule one another in the regular season, they couldn't face off in the playoffs. Jesuit was the first private school allowed to play in the UIL, but that didn't happen until 2003. Permian's real playoff opener was against Tascosa High out of Amarillo.
      • Dallas Carter was depicted in the film as the state's top-ranked team; the real Carter team was never higher than #3 in the AP poll.
      • Another Permian playoff opponent was "Hays" High, nicknamed Rams and wearing green and white. The real Jack C. Hays High, located near Austin, wears red, white, and blue; is nicknamed Rebels; and couldn't have played Permian in the playoffs until 2000, when it became a 5A school—it was a 4A school in 1988. (Hays was in the film because the makers filmed crowd shots at the real Hays High during a regular-season game.)
      • Permian was depicted as playing "San Angelo" in the quarterfinals. The San Angelo ISD then (as now) had two high schools, with San Angelo Central being the only school in Permian's enrollment class both then and now; the playoff structure meant that the only time the two schools could have played was in the quarterfinals. However, Central finished 5th in its district in 1988, at a time when only the top two schools in each district made the playoffs. In reality, Permian played Arlington Lamar in this round.
      • The playoff brackets show a "Baytown". The Houston suburb had two public high schools in 1988 (and now has three); the school in the real 1988 playoffs was Baytown Lee.
    • Permian vs. Carter
      • While Permian and Carter played in the fifth round of the playoffs in both the film and reality, the real-life game was a semifinal and not the final. The format of UIL football playoffs doesn't allow teams from North and West Texas to play one another in the final.
      • The film's Carter–Permian game was played at the Astrodome in Houston before a crowd of 55,000; the real game was played in a heavy downpour at the Texas Longhorns' home of Memorial Stadium in front of 10,000.
      • During the meeting between officials of Carter and Permian to determine a game site, Carter proposed Texas Stadium in Irving as its "home" site. Not depicted in the film was Carter changing its desired "home" site to the Cotton Bowl, within the Dallas city limits. (Under UIL rules, if teams can't agree on a site, each selects a "home" and a "neutral" site, with a series of coin flips determining which site is used.) The two real-life schools eventually agreed on Austin as a neutral site.
      • The film's final was a high-scoring affair, with Permian making a dramatic comeback only to lose 34–28. In the real semifinal, Permian had a 9–7 lead for much of the game, and Carter made the dramatic late comeback to win 14–9. Also, on the last play, the real Mike Winchell threw an incompletion instead of running it himself close to the goal line.
    • Permian and the city of Odessa
      • Permian is depicted as a large high school in a one-horse West Texas town. As noted in "Adapted Out", Odessa then had (and still has) two public high schools, the other being Odessa High. Also, the city had nearly 100,000 people in 1988.
      • Odessa is depicted as a mostly Anglo town with a substantial African-American minority. The real Odessa of 1988 was about a third Hispanic, with African Americans making up only 5% of the population.
      • Permian is depicted as practicing mainly at Ratliff Stadium. The real Panthers mainly practiced on campus.
  • The Benchwarmer: Chris Comer, who refers to himself as “Boobie's backup backup…third string.” Subverted when Comer steps into Boobie’s position and becomes a star player in his own right. The epilogue reveals Comer led Permian to a state championship the following year.
  • Best Years of Your Life: Adults are quick to remind the players that their current success is the most they will ever have. Summed up by one saying: "After high school, it's just babies and memories". However, the idea that their current moments are the best they'll have and all that awaits them is nostalgia and bitterness terrifies all of them deeply.
  • Big Man on Campus: James “Boobie” Miles is the star running back of the Permian Panthers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Panthers lose in the state finals. However, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals most of the seniors go on to live successful lives after high school and the final caption at the end of the film reveals that in 1989 — one year after the film's events take place — Permian, led by Gaines and Comer, does go all the way and win the state championship.
  • Butt-Monkey: Comer is made fun of by Boobie for not having black Nikes like the rest of the team and forgetting his helmet before going on the field. Also Chavez to a degree for his smarts.
  • The Caretaker: Mike is the primary caregiver for his ill, homebound mom. One scene shows him phoning a sibling for help, with him reasoning, “She’s your mother, too.”
  • The Comically Serious: Mike Winchell. Boobie tries to get Mike to crack a smile in the locker room by doing Bill Cosby impersonations, and succeeds.
  • Down to the Last Play: Subverted. The quarterback for the Panthers is stopped one yard short of the end zone, and the team loses. The ending sequence is played in slow motion with members of the Panthers having a Heroic BSoD, as they can't believe they just lost. It also subverts Underdogs Never Lose, since the team had to jump through several hoops just to make it to the title game.
  • Education Mama: Averted. The people of Odessa are so fanatical about the Panthers’ success that they argue the players are spending too much time on school.
    Radio Listener: There's too much learning going on at that school.
  • The '80s: The film takes place in 1988.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Especially fanaticism over high school football. It's not uncommon for small towns to almost completely shut down on Friday nights in the fall.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of sports movies. Numerous feel-good sports films in the 90s and early 00s focused on underdog stories and persevering under bad circumstances. Friday Night Lights revolves around the Permian Panthers, one of the most successful high school football programs in the United States. It highlights the extreme pressure, pathetic post-high school career aspirations, and utter obsession with football that colors the lives of the young players, several of them visibly buckling under the ridiculous expectations that the town places on their shoulders. One player is even abused out in the open by his alcoholic father, a former star player himself who can't accept the harsh realities of life outside of football. Odessa is a Dying Town that has nothing going for it besides the Permian Panthers, and that infatuation is what ultimately leads to the team losing at the state finals on the last play, one yard short of the goal line. And it's all Truth in Television, as anyone from Texas and the rural South could attest to, especially in the withering boomtowns and oilfields that stretch all across western and central Texas.
  • Good-Times Montage: The party scenes, as well as the players enjoying their god-like treatment at their high school.
  • Gut Punch: Boobie cleaning out his locker.
  • Jaded Washout: Donnie's father, Charlie. Once a star player, he is now a violent alcoholic angry at life and himself for not living up to his potential, taking his self-hatred out on his son.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: It is heavily implied that Boobie Miles stole Chris Comer’s helmet so that he didn’t have to come out of the first game of the year despite the team being up big. On the next play, Miles tears his ACL, ending his season and his career.
  • Manly Tears: Subverted. When Boobie breaks down to his uncle, it is full on weeping with nothing even resembling stoicism.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Boobie's (Derek Luke) fitness regimen is shown in the beginning of the film, in a slow-motion shot where he bares his sculpted abs on a shirtless morning jog.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The night before the first big game of the season, Gaines and his wife are dinner guests at the home of wealthy team boosters. In between insistences that Permian better win State, one of the women casually drops the N word in reference to Boobie in an aside to the coach.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Boobie is extra cocky at the outset, basking in various recruitment offers from top colleges. Of course, this all comes to a halt when he suffers a career-ending injury during a game.
  • The Quiet One: Ivory Christian doesn’t talk much, so when he does, people definitely take notice.
  • Rousing Speech: Coach Gaines gives these to his players regularly.
    Coach Gaines: Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning...Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman - you're perfect!
  • Serious Business: Deconstructed with football. The extreme passion people in the town have for the sport is implied to make things worse for the team as it is their burden to make the town proud and most of them are fighting enough of their own battles without the pressure of a town's failed dreams on their backs.
  • Shamed by a Mob: Whenever the team loses, Coach Gaines is the go-to guy for Odessa’s ire. After the team’s first loss of the season, Gaines comes home to “For sale” signs all over his front lawn. After Boobie’s injury, Gaines is ripped to shreds by listeners on local radio shows.
  • Skewed Priorities: The film makes it clear that the Permian Panthers football team is the town's top priority and that the town's obsession results in things that should be more of a priority, such as the education programs or local political issues, taking a backseat and leaving the town worse off.note 
  • The Slacker:
    Guy passing by in car: Billingsley! Party at Taylor's house NOW Billingsley! Gonna get wasted! Yeah! Billingsley! BILLINGSLEY!
    Brian Chavez: Isn't that guy, like, 35?
  • Small Town Boredom: Odessa, Texas. Those who get out are considered lucky.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Boobie Miles gets hurt playing football, and his doctor tells him to rest so as not to exacerbate the injury. But then, Boobie decides that the Permian Panthers need him too badly in a crucial game, and decides to play through his injury. Not long after he gets on the field, the injury takes him right back out with a torn ACL. This time, the injury so bad that it ends Boobie's football career before he's even out of high school. That's what happens when you ignore a doctor's advice about a severe injury!
  • Taking Up the Mantle: When Boobie gets injured, it falls to quarterback Mike Winchell to lead the team to State.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted. The Panthers lose the state championship game when their quarterback just barely fails to reach the end zone. After the final whistle blows, he breaks down in tears.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the state championship, captions over various team personnel reflect what happened to them, including the coaches.
  • Wild Teen Party: There’s one at the beginning of the film, where Billingsley gets wasted and the over-serious Winchell loses his virginity in a bathroom.